BackpackGearTest
  Home Guest - Not logged in 

Reviews > Footwear > Footbeds and Insoles > OrthoSole Max Cushion > Test Report by John Waters

ORTHOSOLES MAX CUSHION INSOLES
TEST SERIES BY JOHN R. WATERS
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - April 12, 2010
FIELD REPORT - June 15, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - August 19, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: John R. Waters
EMAIL: exec@bysky.com
AGE: 61
LOCATION: White Lake, Michigan USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 178 lb (80.70 kg)
BOOT SIZE 10.5 US

My backpacking began in 1999. I have hiked rainforests in Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico, on glaciers in New Zealand and Iceland, 14ers in Colorado and Death Valley's deserts. I hike or snowshoe 6-8 miles (10 km-13 km) 2-3 times weekly in Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, with other day-long hikes on various SE Michigan trails. I also hike in Colorado and am relocating there, which will increase my hiking time and trail variety tremendously. My daypack is 18 lb (8 kg); overnights' weigh over 25 lb (11 kg). I'm aiming to reduce my weight load by 40% or more.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Athena Pacific, LLC
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.orthosole.com
MSRP: US $49.95
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 4.5 oz (128 g) per pair
Sizes Available: 8 - 13.5 US Men's (also available in women's sizes)
Size Tested: 10-10.5 US Men's (9-9.5 UK/44-44.5 EUR)

90 Days Perfect Fit Guarantee
Designed in USA and made in China
OrthoSole Max Cushion InSoles
Picture Courtesy of OrthoSole

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Since my wife has a pair of the OrthoSole Max Cushion InSoles for women, I knew what to expect when the package arrived on my doorstep. But, even if I hadn't already seen the pink version of the InSoles, a quick trip to the OrthoSole website would have thoroughly prepared me for how the InSoles look, are made and operate.
InSole Construction
Picture Courtesy of OrthoSole
Examining the overall base construction of the InSoles, I can clearly see three layers of materials. The top layer is a dark gray smooth-feeling nylon which covers a middle layer of Poron Urethane, which, according to the website, is what will allow the InSoles to conform to the shape of my feet. Additional cushioning is provided by the EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate copolymer resin) bottom layer.

Additionally, there is a more rigid, light gray, plastic-like section towards the rear. This section extends from, and cups, the heel to mid-foot. In the center of this piece which is called the "heel chassis" by OrthoSole, is a dark gray egg-shaped gel insert.

Mid-foot are two switchable customizable pads in different shades of blue. It is these switchable, mix and match pads which make the Max Cushion InSoles so unique.

As shipped in the retail packaging, the InSoles are configured with the "firm support" arch pad and the "medium support" metatarsal pad. The shade of the pads indicates the level of support, with the lightest blue being the lightest and the darkest blue being the most firm. In addition to the pads already on the InSoles, two more sets of arch pads and one more set of metatarsal pads are included.

When not in use, the extra support pads can be stored in the provided small blue cloth pull tie storage pouch.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

According to the Insoles' retail packaging, there are three "Easy Fitting Steps" for customizing the adjustable support system of the Insoles:

"1.) Replace existing insole with OrthoSole
2.) Wear for a minimum of 2 minutes
3.) Adjust support pads as needed."

A small tri-fold enclosed User's Guide goes into a little more detail and adds a fourth beginning step of "Configure your new OrthoSole insoles with your preferred combination of arch and metatarsal support pads."

Care instructions on both the inside of the retail packaging and in the User's Guide are listed as "Hand-wash the top layer with mild soap and lukewarm water. Air dry. Do not machine wash. Do not bleach. Do not iron." Yeah, I know. We all have to be reminded not to iron our shoes.

One further item to note in the User's Guide (and inside the retail packaging) is with regard to medical conditions. It is stated that users with diabetes, poor circulation, lack of sensation in the feet, unusually shaped or deformed feet should consult a health care professional before using the InSoles. Also, any resultant pain with the InSoles should indicate removal of the InSoles until consultation with a physician.

TRYING IT OUT

After removing the stock insoles from a pair of well-broken in trail runners, I decided to first try the OrthoSole Max Cushion InSoles with the configuration right out of the box.

I was very surprised and pleased at the fit of the InSoles in my shoes. I've used other insoles before and I'm used to having to trim them to fit into my size 10 1/2 shoes. The OrthoSole InSoles fit just fine.

Immediately though, I felt the stock configuration was not quite right. I could feel more support in my arch but maybe it was too much. I wasn't quite sure initially because I'm so used to not having custom arch support that I thought perhaps this was the way my feet should feel. However, after walking around as suggested in the instructions for a couple of minutes, I decided the arch support was too much and felt more like a "lump" than a "pad".

Removing the arch and metatarsal pads was easily accomplished by bending the InSole slightly and pulling on the upraised corner of the arch pad and then the metatarsal pad. The pads stick to the InSoles via a very fine hook and loop fabric.

I played around with various combinations of light, medium and firm support pads and, for now, decided to try medium pads on the left InSole and a medium arch with light metatarsal support on the right InSole. Will this be best for me? I don't know just yet. But it's nice to know I can change it if it isn't.

SUMMARY

I'm impressed by the concept and the construction of the OrthoSole Max Cushion Insoles. They appear to be well-designed, quality-made footwear add-ons. The ability to swap out the arch and metatarsal supports suggest I will be able to wear the Insoles comfortably with different trail shoes and boots. I look forward to testing that ability in the next four months.

Thank you to BackpackGearTest.org and Athena Pacific for the opportunity to do so.

This concludes my Initial Report. In two months, early June, I will report on my experiences with the Insoles. Please return then to read them.

John R. Waters


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

All of my hiking trips since April 2010 have been in the immediate surrounding mountain ranges of Canon City, Colorado. This includes the Cooper, Fremont, Wet Mountain ranges as well as the lower reaches of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Most of the time, I backpacked in the Bureau of Land Management forests behind my property in the Cooper Mountains. We hiked to the top of Fremont Peak in Canon City, Colorado at 7300 ft (2225 m) at about 75 F (24 C) and 20% humidity where the scenery is just magnificent with views to Pikes Peak to the north and way past Pueblo, Colorado to the east. We also finally hiked to the top of a narrow knife-edged ridge about 3 miles (5 km) behind our 71 acre ranch (29 hectares) at about 6800 ft (2072 m) where the ridge can be straddled between a hiker's legs for quite a distance.

The weather was very sunny to very cloudy with occasional spring precipitation. Trails, when there were any, very hard packed and bushwhack terrain was rocky hills to muddy grassland, broken up by lots of juniper and cactus. Did not encounter any snow or ice during this period.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

WHAT WENT ON DURING THIS PERIOD

I had inserted the OrthoSoles into a pair of high-end trail shoes that interestingly had quite a good foot bed insert already. I was impressed when I removed the original because I have seen some really flimsy inserts provided by manufacturers. So I figured that I would not see much of a difference. But, I was very pleasantly surprised. I fiddled around with the adjuster pads and ended up liking the medium metatarsal pad and light arch pad for the right foot and the medium metatarsal pad and medium arch pad for the left foot. I've been told that I'm not well balanced and now all those folks can point to solid proof. So be it.

I've tried moving the OrthoSoles from trail shoes to boots to casual shoes and this combination still feels best. The only shoes that these did not work in were a pair of casual shoes that had 1/2 inch foam insoles that were so thick replacing them with the OrthoSoles would have put my foot too far down in the shoe. Otherwise, these fit every other shoe or boot I own after I trimmed them.

Trimming is at first scary. Taking a pair of scissors to anything of value is a cautionary endeavor. I made sure my scissors were sharp and that I had a stable surface and plenty of light. I also did the trimming in small shavings. It is always easier to trim off a hair more than to put a hair more back on. So I trimmed these to fit snuggly into my trail runners so that I did not have to force them or cause them to bend when inserted. They fit snuggly and smooth.

When I take them out and move them to a pair of boots they come out easily and transfer easily. I thought there would be a major issue with moving them around between pairs and vendors and I have not had that problem at all yet.

I am finding them to be very comfortable. I have used 3rd party inserts before in other boots, but never had a chance to adjust the support like this. I can feel the difference right away and it feels very supportive and comforting.

Of course, like most high-end insoles, the OrthoSoles come between me and the ground to add that extra layer of cushioning and protection. Pointy rocks and pebbles are less pronounced. With the proper support, I also feel more stable and slightly more "bouncy" as I stride along.

I used these on hikes of over 6 miles (9.6 km) over rocky terrain and had no foot strain or sore insoles. They performed quite well.

I also noticed right away that my trail shoes had less odor. The vendor says that the top cover of the OrthoSole has "Antimicrobial for fighting foot odor and helping prevent bacterial and fungus growth" (per their web site). Smells like it works.

I've put over 50 miles (80 km) on these and I can see some wear on the inside top of the insole as discoloration (see image) above the metatarsal pad. I'm not sure if that is normal or if I have too high a metatarsal support and I'm causing that because I'm putting too much pressure on that area. I like the way it feels, but I think for the rest of this test I am going to kick that support down from medium to light and see what happens.

The bottoms of the OrthoSoles show little wear (see photos).
OrthoSoles Top
Top of OrthoSoles
Bottom of OrthoSoles
Current Configuration

SUMMARY

So over the next testing period, the weather here will be up well into 100 F (38 C) and we will be on the trails where ground temps can be over 130 F (54 C). So this will give me a chance to see how these hold up at high temperatures since I have had exterior trail shoe soles peel off before.

So far, I like them. Think they feel great and perform well. And I really like being able to make adjustments.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Well, I've been using my OrthoSoles a lot the past several weeks. I've had them in trail runners and mid-boots, and worn them in temperatures up to 101 F (38.3 C) in all sorts places doing all sorts of things, including climbing my radio towers. We've hiked at high altitudes up to 7200 ft (2195 m) and climbed over rocks and scree and through cactus infested landscape. I've packed weight up to about 40 lbs (18 kg) while hiking up and down 45 degree slopes wearing light-weight mid-boots.

Most of the time I wore crew-length hiking socks of various composition; merino wool, nylon, etc. as well as regular cotton sport socks when the temperature got really high a few days and I was just working around town.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

As I said in the mid-term report, I did change the arch support to medium. The higher support feels good for a while, but after a long term hike, the higher support tends to hit my foot too hard and becomes uncomfortable. The medium form does tend to work well for me under all instances.

I also noticed, as I was moving these around between shoes, that I can get them into every one of the shoes or boots I used width-wise, but I did have one case where the insert did not reach all the way forward and I could feel about 1/8 in (0.3 cm) of space between the OrthoSole and the tip of the footbed. It was so noticeable that I could not comfortably wear the OrthoSoles in that specific pair of trail shoes. These shoes were the same size as all my other shoes/boots. So, there will be cases where these probably will not be transferable between all shoes once they are cut to form-fit a specific pair. I was able to transfer them between enough of my shoes though that I was a happy hiker.

I have not noticed more color change. In my field report above, I showed some discoloration, but that has not gotten worse than what is reported there.

I also still noticeably can tell the difference in odor control. But I also now know that some shoes create more odor than others and it has nothing to do with the footbed. I have a pair of trail shoes that do not smell with or without the OrthoSoles, another that smell with their own footbeds and not with the OrthoSoles, and I have a pair of light-weight mids that smell no matter what footbeds I use. Who thought using inserts could be so complicated?

SUMMARY

I really like using good shoe sole inserts. The shoe and boot vendors are getting better at providing quality footbeds but the insert vendors spend much more development and engineering time on their products, their goal being to provide superior foot support. OrthoSoles meets that goal and does it uniquely by allowing me to tailor my inserts to best suit the structure of my feet. This is as close as I can get to having custom molded footbeds. Wearing these is truly comfortable and I will always wear these on long hikes.

Thank you to BackpackGearTest.org and OrthoSoles for the opportunity to test this product.

John R. Waters

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of OrthoSole gear
Read more gear reviews by John Waters

Reviews > Footwear > Footbeds and Insoles > OrthoSole Max Cushion > Test Report by John Waters



Product tested and reviewed in each Formal Test Report has been provided free of charge by the manufacturer to BackpackGearTest.org. Upon completion of the Test Series the writer is permitted to keep the product. Owner Reviews are based on product owned by the reviewer personally unless otherwise noted.

If you are an avid backpacker, we are always looking for enthusiastic, quality reviewers. Apply here to be a gear tester.


All material on this site is the exclusive property of BackpackGearTest.org.
BackpackGearTest software copyright David Anderson